Picking Up Reading
Katherine Marsh tackles the question of why rates of reading for fun have dropped for kids. I’m keenly interested in this subject because I am constantly trying to get my sons (especially my youngest) to read books. Getting my youngest son to take his head out of video games and put it in a book has been a monumental challenge. He keeps using the same phrase that comes up in this article: “Reading isn’t fun.”
Marsh finds some links between the way reading is currently taught in school, which is very analytical, and the lack of enjoyment in the activity.
For anyone who knows children, this is the opposite of engaging: The best way to present an abstract idea to kids is by hooking them on a story. “Nonliteral language” becomes a whole lot more interesting and comprehensible, especially to an 8-year-old, when they’ve gotten to laugh at Amelia’s antics first. The process of meeting a character and following them through a series of conflicts is the fun part of reading. Jumping into a paragraph in the middle of a book is about as appealing for most kids as cleaning their room.
It seems that we need to go back to more traditional ways of teaching kids how to interact with books so that they can appreciate the process again. We have to decrease the amount of strict measurement that accompanies the process now.
We can’t let tests control how teachers teach: Close reading may be easy to measure, but it’s not the way to get kids to fall in love with storytelling. Teachers need to be given the freedom to teach in developmentally appropriate ways, using books they know will excite and challenge kids.
I have no illusions that, with the endless distractions we have in the world now, rates of reading for leisure will ever rebound to the highs we saw when I was a kid. I do think we need more of it to make our kids well-balanced, though.
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